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GRIFFITH & FARRAN, CORNER OF ST. PAUL'S CHURCHYARD.
tf. & C. TREACHER, BRIGHTON.
Designed by J. if. Brown. aruUhblis/wdDa: T 19 a Mf3. hy Griffith iFcaran,
S'J'auli Church lardlondan.
SURPRISING SPECTRAL ILLUSIONS.
AND OF ANY COLOUR.
BY J. H. BROWN.
WITH SIXTEEN ILLUSTRATIONS.
GRIFFITH AND F A R R A N,
SUCCESSORS TO NEWBEBY AND HARRIS,
CORNER OF ST. PAUL'S CHURCHYARD.
H. & C. TREACHER, BRIGHTON.
[Entered at Stationers' Mall.}
The following Illusions are founded on two well-known facts ; namely, the
persistency of impressions, and the production of complementary colours, on the
The explanations are divided into two Parts. The first consists of
directions for seeing the spectres. The second, a hrief and popular, as well
as a scientific, description of the manner in which the spectres are produced,
and is intended for the use of those who may wish to know more of this
subject than is contained in the first Part.
As an apology for the apparent disregard of taste and fine art in the
plates, such figures are selected as best serve the purpose for which they are
J. H. BEOWN.
Old Steyne, Brighton.
To see the spectres, it is only necessary to look steadily at the dot, or asterisk, which is to be found
on each of the plates, for about a quarter of a minute, or while counting about twenty, the plate being
well illuminated by either artificial or day light. Then turning the eyes to the ceiling, the wall,
the sky, or better still to a white sheet hung on the wall of a darkened room (not totally dark), and
looking rather steadily at any one point, the spectre will soon begin to make its appearance, increasing
in intensity, and then gradually vanishing, to reappear and again vanish ; it will continue to do
so several times in succession, each reappearance being fainter than the one preceding. Winking
the eyes, or passing a finger rapidly to and fro before them, will frequently hasten the appearance
of the spectre, especially if the plate has been strongly illuminated.
Thoso who use gaslight will find it convenient, after having looked at the plate as above
described, to extemporise a darkened room by having the gaslight turned low ; or one end of the
room may be darkened by placing a screen before the gas, lamp, or candle light.
The spectres may be easily made to appear life-sized or colossal, by having the plate nearer
the eyes while receiving the impression, and by increasing the distance between the observer and
the surface against which they are seen. As a general rule, the observer should be about eight to
twenty feet from the surface. When the spectres are seen against opposite houses, the sky, and
other distant surfaces, they will appear colossal.
Should any one not be able to see the spectre's features, the reason will be, either that the
eyes have been allowed to wander, or the head to move, while looking at the plate.
Many persons will see some one coloured spectre better than the others, in consequence of
their eyes not being equally sensitive to all colours.
The colours in the plate will be found to reverse themselves in the spectres, as explained
elsewhere, the spectres always appearing of the complementary colour to that of the plate from
which it is obtained. Thus, blue will appear orange, and orange blue, &c.
LIST OF THE PLATES.
I'his winged figure of Victory will give a white spectre by artificial light (rather green by ilaylight), the red
■wreaths green, the green roses red, and the orange stars blue.
This black figure will give a white spectre.
This will give a dark spectre.
This green figure will give a red spectre.
And this red figure will give a green spectre.
This orange figure will give a blue spectre.
And this blue figure an orange spectre.
This purple hand will give a yellow spectre.
And this yellow figure of Victory will give a purple spectre.
The face of this figure will come out green in the spectre, the garment red, and the cloud white.
This black skeleton will make a white spectre.
This skeleton will also give a white spectre, with a yellow mantle.
This figure and broom will give a yellow spectre, cloak and hat red, and moon white.
These figures will give green and yellow spectres.
This .Cupid will give a rose-coloured spectre, with bow and arrow yellow.
This is a rainbow with colours reversed, the spectre of which will be found a good resemblance of
nature, especially when seen on a cloudy sky.
The colours of the spectres produced by these figures will not only be subject to a slight variation in
different eyes, but also by the degree in which the plates are illuminated while bein^ looked at.
A POPULAR AND SCIENTIFIC DESCRIPTION.
It is a curious fact that, in this age of scientific research, the absurd follies of spiritualism should
find an increase of supporters ; but mental epidemics seem at certain seasons to affect our minds,
and one of the oldest of these moral afflictions — witchcraft — is once more prevalent in this
nineteenth century, under the contemptible forms of spirit-rapping and table-turning. The modern
professor of these impostures, like his predecessors in all such disreputable arts, is bent only on
raising the contents of the pockets of the most gullible portion of humanity, and not the spirits of
the departed, over which, as he well knows, notwithstanding his profane assumption, he can have
One thing we hope in some measure to further in the following pages, is the extinction of the
superstitious belief that apparitions are actual spirits, by showing some of the many ways in which
our senses may be deceived, and that, in fact, no so-called ghost has ever appeared, without its being
referable either to mental or physiological deception, or, in those instances where several persons have
seen a spectre at the same time, to natural objects, as in the case mentioned by Dr. Abercrombie, in
his work on " The Intellectual Powers : " — " A whole ship's company were thrown into the utmost
consternation, by the apparition of a cook who had died a few days before. He was distinctly seen
walking ahead of the ship, with a peculiar gait, by which he was distinguished when alive, from
having one of his legs shorter than the other. On steering the ship toward the object, it was found
to be a piece of floating wreck."
A ghost, according to the general descriptions of those who fancy they have been favoured
with a sight of one, appears to be of a pale phosphorescent white, or bluish white colour ; usually
indistinct, and so transparent that objects are easily seen through it. "When moving, it glides in a
peculiar manner, the legs not being necessary to its locomotion.
All the senses are more or less subject to deception, but the eye is pre-eminently so ; especially
in the case of individuals who are in ill health, because the sensibility of the retina is then generally
much exalted, as is also the imagination.
We may divide the illusions to which the sense of sight is liable into four kinds. First,
mental or those arising in the brain itself, and only referred to the eye. Second, those produced
by the structure of the eye. Third, those arising from the impressions of outward objects on the
retina. Fourth, those produced by various combinations of the foregoing. It is only the second
and third we shall have occasion to touch upon. But before we can well understand their nature,
it will be necessary to get a slight knowledge of the structure of the eye, and some idea respecting
the nature of light.
With perhaps the exception of the ear, the eye is the most wonderful example of the infinite
skill of the Creator. A more exquisite piece of mechanism it is impossible for the human mind
to conceive. The annexed diagram (Fig. 1) of a horizontal
section of this organ will give a better idea of its general
structure than whole pages of letter-press. It will be seen to
consist of a globe of three envelopes or coats, which are kept
distended by three transparent humours or lenses : the aqueous
(e), the crystalline (f), and the vitreous (g). The outer coat (a) is
dense, white, and fibrous. In front of the eye it gives place to a
perfectly transparent one, called the cornea (d). The next coat,
the choroid (b), is vascular, very black on its internal surface, ini
order that light falling on it through the pupil (h) may not be
reflected. The pupil is an opening through a diaphragm which is called the iris (t), from its colour
varying in different individuals. It has the power of expanding and contracting the pupil, for the
purpose of regulating the supply of light to the retina (c), or third and last coat which lies immediately
on the choroid. It is transparent, very complex, and the only part of the eye we shall carefully
consider. The following diagram (Fig. 2) represents a section of it
magnified 250 diameters, a is called the limitary membrane, and
forms its innermost surface, or that which is next the vitreous
humour ; b consists of the layer of optic nerve fibres ; c is a
layer of grey nerve cells ; d, two layers in which the principal
retinal blood-vessels are spread out ; e, two layers of granular
matter ; /, Jacob's membrane, or layer of rods and cones. Fig. 3
will give some idea of the supposed connexion between these
various parts, the same letters referring to the same parts as
in Fig. 2.
When a ray of light enters the eye, it passes through the humours or lenses, and is formed
by them into an image, on the choroid, of the object looked at. The extremities of the rods and cones'
have the power of appreciating the image there formed, and convoy it up through the ultimate parts
of the retina (Fig. 2), thence along the optic nerve fibres to the brain. We are inclined to regard
the extremities of the rods and cones as the true seat of perception, in consequence of observing a
considerable distance between the retinal blood-vessels and the choroid, when performing Purkinje's
experiment.* This experiment consists in passing a lighted candle slowly to and fro before the eyes,
at about two or three inches from the nose, when the retinal vessels will exhibit themselves before
the observer not unlike branching trees. They may be
seen by daylight, by passing the largo teeth of an ordinary
comb slowly backwards and forwards before the eye,
whilst looking on a smooth sheet of paper, or upon the
sky. Fig. 4 represents those of the left eye, as seen by
candlelight. The spot marked k is the exact centre of
the retina. (The same letter marks the same spot in
Fig. 1.) It is the seat of most distinct vision. _;' is the
entrance of the optic nerve (Figs. 4 and 1), from the
centre of which the retinal artery will bo seen emerging
and spreading over the entire retina ; but in the diagram
that part only is represented which could be seen tolerably
distinct. The background to the artery appears of a pale red, except at the part occupied by the
optic nerve, where it is white.
After this rapid glance at so complicated a structure, and bearing in mind that some persons
can see its several parts with vastly greater facility than others, it cannot be a matter of surprise
that individuals not aware of these facts are, now and then — ■
especially at night, and when carrying a light about — startled
by what they fancy an apparition, but which is in reality
nothing more than some part of the structures above con-
sidered. A lady assures us that she saw the ghost of her
husband as she was going downstairs with a lighted candle in
her hand. The spot k, Fig. 4, when seen against a wall a Fig. 5.
few feet distant, appears about the size of a human head, and wants very little to furnish it with
features. Figured paper on the wall, and a host of other things, may supply them, or even the
retinal artery, which often lends body and limbs. (Fig. 5.)
* This distance can easily be perceived by getting an impression on the retina, according to the " Directions,"
page i, and then, on performing the above experiment, the arterial ramifications and the central spot will be distinctly
perceived to move over the spectral figure.
Besides the above-mentioned structures, there are others which may play an important part
in these illusions, especially the common museas volantes, so called from then- resemblance to
flying flies. They consist of cells and filaments, the debris of the
structures of the eye, and float about in its humours. That some
of them exist very near the retina appears evident from the
fact that, on placing the eyes close to a gauze wire blind, distinct
miniature images of parts of the gauze will be seen in them.
We now pass on to consider some of the leading properties
of Li"ht. There have been many theories propounded from time
to time in order to explain the various phenomena connected with
this subject, but only one accords well with all, and that is called
the undulatory or vibratory theory, which, from its numerous com-
plications, will compel us to confine ourselves to a consideration of that part only which is necessary to
our present use. This theory regards light as the vibrations of an imponderable ether pervading all
space, the number of these vibrations varying in a given time for each of the three primary colours —
blue, yellow, and red — the greatest number producing blue, the least red, and an intermediate number
yellow, all other colours being produced by the combination of these in various proportions. Any two
of the three primary colours mixed together makes the complementary colour to the third, and the third
is also complementary to it. Thus, blue and yellow make green, which is the complementary colour
to red ; red and blue make purple, complementary to yellow ; yellow and red make orange,
complementary to blue. "When the three primary colours are mixed together, white is the result :
so that when a ray of white light falls upon a piece of paper, and all the vibrations are equally
reflected, the paper will appear white, and if they are all absorbed, it will appear black ; but, if
the paper absorbs some and reflects others, it will appear coloured. Thus, if it absorbs those
producing red, it will appear green, from the mixture of the vibrations producing blue and yellow ;
and if it absorbs blue and yellow, and reflects red, then it will appear red. In this manner any
object we look at will appear of any particular colour, according to which vibrations it absorbs
and which it reflects.
The retina is so admirably constructed that it is susceptible of different impressions of colour
by these different vibrations, except in the case of a few individuals, who are either blind to all
colour, aud therefore see everything black or white, and their intermediate shades, or who are blind
to only one or two colours.
When we look steadily at a red object for a few seconds, that part of the retina on which
the image impinges begins to get less sensitive to vibrations producing red, but more sensitive to
those producing blue and yellow ; so that on turning the eye away from the red object, and
permitting a little white light to enter it, that part of the retina which received the red image
will, in consequence of its diminished sensibility to that colour, and its exalted sensibility to blue
and yellow, be able to perceive the two latter colours best, and by their mixture will give rise to
a green image of the red object. The same thing will be observed with all the other colours ;
the secondary image or spectre always appearing of the complementary colour to the object from
which the impression is obtained.
The duration and vividness of these impressions on the retina vary greatly in different
individuals, and can be pirocured from almost any object. A person may, after looking steadily, and
as often happens, unconsciously, for a short time at printed or painted figures, on paper, porcelain, &c,
see, on turning the head in some other direction, a life-sized or colossal spectre (the spectre appears
larger the greater the distance of the surface against which it is seen), and there can be little
doubt but that many of the reputed ghosts originate in this manner.
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